Monday, September 12, 2005

Jurassic Blog?

Extinct..... Not Yet!

Coming Soon to a Desktop near You...

Monday, August 01, 2005

Sunday, July 24, 2005

A Day at the Movies

Wandered into the Film Festival happening here in Delhi. Ended up watching 2 ½ movies. Here goes..

Silent Big Man (Kikansha Sensei, Japan) by Japanese Director Hiroki Ryuichi. I found the movie a refereshing, simple story told very well. Seigo Yoshioka is a young man who goes back from Hokkaido to his mother’s birthplace to teach for the last time. His inability to speak does not deter him from imparting lessons to his wards – a small group of naughty kids from the local fisherman community. Neither does it stop him from teaching the children the little lessons about following the right path, aiming higher and the true meaning of strength. His mother’s ties with the village, the issues raised by the local fishermen’s boss and a kendo tournament make up the connects in the plot. The film has some great visuals of Hana island (where the story is based) – of the sea, beaches and in general, of life in the simple Japanese villages; good sound recording and background score. Score: 4/5

The Best Times (Ahla Al Awkat, Egypt). Directed by Hala Khalil, Best Times has at its centre, Salma, who has just lost her mother. Salma rejoins with two childhood friends, seeking to trace out an anonymous sender of mails containing a musictape first, later a horoscope and at another time a childhood photo of Salma with her friends. As the three friends zero down on one suspect after another, their search and verification effort leads to comical and at times, touching situations. The movie also involves some intertwined subplots of a wife’s attempt to balance her personal space and her husband’s expectations, a yound woman torn between pursuing her ambitions and a safer option of settling down into marriage with her partner and a stepfather’s attempt to win the affection of his step daughter. The movie was good in parts; decent entertainment value. The movie was a box-office hit in Egypt and also won Second Prize at the Rotterdam Arab Film Festival, 2004. Score: 2.5/5

Paradise Girls (Netherlands). The director Fow Pyung Hu sews together the stories of the lives of three girls. The first deals with a Japanese girl who follows her Dutch boyfriend to Holland only to realize its not to be. The second is about the tribulations of a Chinese girl in Holland. This is the precise point where your film reviewer had to leave the cinema hall and the movie half way. Promising to return with more reviews and half movies…

Blogging Hypothesis reigning true on Chutney Square

"Frequency (ßυ) at which posts are updated on the blog is inversely proportional to the distance (χ) travelled by the Blogger away from Base location"

ßυ α 1/χ

ßυ – ßlogging Frequency
χ – Displacement of ßlogger from Base Location

Friday, July 22, 2005

Pomegranate seeds on Mars?

Your guess is as good as mine. Awesome, when you realise what the pic above is about.

Kaleidoscope for the Answer Key :)

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Statistics of Corruption

India’s score on the Corruption Perceptions Index 2004:
2.8 (90th out of 146 countries)
Total money common citizens paid as bribe last year while availing one or more of the eleven public services:
Rs. 21,068 crores
Public Services surveyed: Police (Crime/Traffic), Judiciary, Land Administration, Municipal Services, Govt. Hospitals, Electricity (Consumers) PDS (Ration Card/Supplies), Income Tax(Individual Assesses), Water Supply, Schools (upto 12th)
and Rural Finacial Institutions (Farmers)
Most Corrupt Public Service: Police
Second Most Corrupt: Land Administration
Followed by: Judiciary
(Aside: Judiciary??)
In Judiciary, of those who paid bribe,
41 % had paid to influence judgment,
31 % to speed up or delay judgment,
28 percent for listing of case/ to get copy of documents.
Least Corrupt State: Kerala
Most Corrupt State: Bihar

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Rising Tiger, Racing Dragon & The Statesman Sam…

Are we to judge our growing importance (compared to China) by the welcomes accorded and the statements made during summits? Or base it on genuine agreements and treaties?

People who are familiar with the Presidential addresses at the US House of Representatives wouldn’t have been pleasantly surprised at the stand-clap-sit routine yesterday during our PM’s address to the Senate. Though the PM did look at times completely nonplussed at the uninvited applause for harmless statements, he did make a couple of significant points which only a confident statesman sure of himself could have made.

Dr Singh laid out an elaborate ambit to explain the kind of entity that the US is dealing with: the largest “functioning democracy”. So the argument was the engagement with India comes with no catches. Atleast no self-respecting ones, given that Cold War now sounds like a fossil fuel and the politicians across the India-Pakistan border have lately worked hard at keeping issues within the neighbourhood. US might be willing to buy that line, given the statements coming out of the White House this time. The PM went on to say that the entrepreneurial and the business class were “enabling India to participate in the global economy as an equal partner.” Working for an American firm and a truly global one at that gives you an idea how India’s prosperity is important to the world.

Fusion energy for Gas is the latest exchange offer on the table. Go Nuclear, says Uncle Sam. This is the same country which blocked cryogenic technology imports into India saying they could also be inputs to missile production. So what will come of these summit-glorifying statements will only be known twelve.. maybe eighteen months down the line. The Leftists coming down heavily when it comes to opening the doors to our facilities to outsiders is a possibility. One wonders if there is any such thing as a civilian nuclear facility.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Roads of India

Getting back to Bangalore is always fun. Making way from the Airport to home even more. Especially if you have to negotiate the wily passage extending from Airport Road running through Marathalli. Was in Chandigarh last Saturday. And I was surprised (pleasantly..) to discover roads with breadths as long as half a football field. Literally. More used to the monsoon-enhanced rivulets pretending to be roads closer to home, one is forgiven on thinking if the roads in Le Corbusier’s design are wasteful of precious real estate. Well, the slip roads (service lanes to the uninitiated) in Chandigarh are wider than the ITPL road in Bangalore or the Doveton Flyover in Chennai! Then there are the roads of Delhi. The Ring Roads are a favourite parking spot for the Delhiites. All you need to do is to enter one. I guess Delhi sets the record for the highest number of vehicles per square meter of road space. Here motorists conveniently convert the platforms into mini aerial ring roads. No wonder pedestrians prefer to use the roads and actively participate in the fight for tarmac space. The conspicuous ‘Central Road Research Institute’ on Mathura Road there has had little impact I would believe. Lucknow has no such luxury of a research institute dedicated to such studies as useless as road research. The main protagonists are the cycle-rickshaws, Vikram’s (fat-fat’s to the illiterate goons) and the notorious Sumos. Dropping passengers off at Charbagh, picking up new ones and slipping out of the chocked road is quite a craft at which most of the Vikram and Sumo Drivers have to earn their colours in.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

If You Thought Fevistik was cool...

What is it with these adhesives and their media agencies? Whatever it is, they do the bring out the best in each other. All Henkel Brazil wanted to do was aptly communicate their glue's superiority. Immediately they 'stuck' to the task. And have been ever since. The agency came up with a concept like none before. A monitor was stuck up to a wall. Period! And so it has been for the 41 days running. And beamed it live too. I've heard of cyber advertising but this takes the cake. :) The effort won some awards at Cannes too.

Heaven from Brookefield..

Monday, July 04, 2005


Has economics made politicians out of us common folk?

Anne Applebaum’s search for pro-Americanism also brought her to India. The responses she got weren’t too far from the prevailing assessment amongst most. Most of us see the US greenback as the single most uncomplicated global asset, which would help us to greater prosperity. So while there may be an underlying sense amongst us, of the agitated responses that the US Government’s recent political forays have received around the world, America to us symbolizes industry, wealth and despite Mr Greenspan’s warnings, still the Land of Great Hope. It is easy to see why a majority of the surveyed Indians also thought of America as a ‘good influence’ in the world. The US has for long followed a policy made famous by the Kollywood: “Be Good to Me; I’ll be Good to you. & Vice versa”. So if Ms Applebaum did ask people in India, “Do you think America is a good influence in the world?”, I don’t think anyone would have spent much time on a bit of geopolitical analysis and strategic computation to arrive at their answer : a resounding politically-correct “Yes”.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Castro Redux

Fidel Castro has never vied for any title as grand as the messiah of the poor. He has been more famous for holding fort at one of the last bastions of Marxist governing principles. But in a recent address to an UNCTAD conference, he did throw some startling numbers on the prevalence of poverty. Not only of people but of countries too. Though good portions of his speech were dedicated to taking shots at his ‘imperialist’ foes, he does make some significant points about how large sets of people and some countries would continue into a downward spiral. Unless someone from outside did something, that is.

Poverty is a given today. Worldwide or countrywide. Especially in our country where the inescapable truth (about the BPL population) hits you at every traffic signal or the local trains or at the entrance to places of worship. If we are carrying one-fifth of the world’s population, we should also have one-fifth of the world’s poor, right? Or More?! Common knowledge as they may seem, the sheer numbers still never fail to overwhelm one. Atleast they did me.

  • The Third World received as 54 billion USD as official development aid in 2003 while they paid 436 billion in debt service in the same year
  • 25 years ago five hundred million people were starving and today the number is over 800 million
  • 325 million children do not attend school
  • 85% of the world population lives in the poor countries but their share of international trade is only 25%
  • External debt of poor countries was 50 billion USD in 1964 and has grown to 2.6 trillion today

Mr Castro offers these facts and more in an attempt to present a case for a multi-pronged strategy including debt service assistance, healthcare assistance and population control. But in the process, the Cuban President stops short of offering any concrete ideas which might bring us around to think that the pitch he made is worth it after all. Towards the end, he does call his audience to ‘plant new ideas’ to circumvent the issues facing the world. More importantly, he reserves his best for the very last:

“The question stands, is it not too late? I am an optimist, I say no, and I share the hope that a better world is possible.”

The full text can be found here.

PS: Though light years apart on the political spectrum, leaders worldwide could look and sound strangely similar!

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Monsoon, Gone Soon?

A Pleasant Day it was. But the showers were nowhere to be seen.

Expectations from the annual purported rain-fest usually run high in our country. Though it’s the flavour of the season among most analyses we follow, the South-Westerly stubbornly refuses to call itself a season. Atleast back here in the Garden City. Given to the ways of the North, the return trek back here was looked forward to with much zest usually reserved for dandiya ras’, marriages and cricket matches. (One suspects the enthusiasm stemmed more from the prevalence of pakoras, beer and dance common to all of these landmark occasions.) So here I am half hoping for a downpour to trigger an attempt at life’s little excesses. But the clouds over Bangalore have a mind of their own. They seem to have been inspired by the celebrity pack of clouds showcased in Aamir Khan Productions’ ‘Lagaan’. So the city spent a day under an overcast sky that refused to bring the house down. And the clouds spent a day over an indifferent city that refused to play a cricket match for them. This has continued for the last eight days, I am told.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Quote Unquote

"China is what the U.S. economy might look like if it were run by a consortium of folks from McKinsey, Goldman Sachs, and the CIA"
-Rik Kirkland Will the U.S. Be Flattened by a Flatter World? Fortune July 4

Sunday, June 26, 2005

“No TamilNadu Meals!!”

hat’s exactly the response I got from Selva, the friendly looking waiter at my table at the Saravana Bhavan on Janpath. Nothing could be more disappointing for a rice-eating young south Indian than being denied the pleasure of a Sunday Afternoon spent devouring sambar rice with appalam to go with some koottu, chutney, kara kuzhambu, uralai kilangu fry, sweet pachadi and some payasam to top it off – the works, basically. I had been preparing for this afternoon for a week now through the scorching work week in Delhi. The rains too failed to dampen the spirits. (The pre-monsoons have arrived in the Rajdhani, by the way) So I arrived, asked for the Meals section and took my royal perch. Only for Selva to bring it crashing down. “Tamil Nadu meals niruthi naal-anji maasam aagudhu saar…” he continued nonchalantly (“Its been quite some time since we discontinued the Tamil Nadu meals combo”). Clearly, the flabbergasted look on my face had failed to elicit a correction in the menu. The drubbing was complete.

So there was only thing left to do for any self-respecting meals-loving south Indian bloke. And that was to go to the nearest self-respecting meals-peddling south Indian joint. Which in this case was the good ol’ Andhra Bhawan. The AP Bhawan on Ashok Road has been a sanctuary for good Sunday afternoon food, as many a Delhi food connoisseur would agree. Long before the capitalists (read SB) arrived. Meal-time starts around noon and extends upto a couple of minutes past 3. As long as you’re able to hustle the crowd to get yourself a token and put yourself on the waitlist. And if you dig the tasty pesarattus, breakfast is between 7.30 am and 10. The prices aren’t exactly up the socialist tree but the meal is satisfying nevertheless. Take note, Biriyanis are Sunday specials.

Midway through my third helping of rice and sambar at the AP Bhawan (helped along by some good fish pulusu), I realized there might be an uncanny similarity to the political situation down south. The incumbent government has practiced a policy of isolation towards most groups and has also made “Volte-face!” a party slogan. Its as if they've been bellowing "No Tamilnadu Meals!" to anyone wanting to engage them in a conversation! Over the last 4 years they seem to have clearly set a record of sorts by rejecting the Left, the Right and the Centre! And the scrambles have been worth following. Ranging from fighting to take credit when a telecom major decided to invest in a manufacturing facility to the current confusion over the now-you’re-the-topper now-you’re-not situation after the entrance exams got cancelled. The judgment has been reserved and lets hope for the best.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Simply Impossible..!

As they say, It happens only in .....
(Saw this pic somewhere. Thought I'll let the world know.)

Monday, June 20, 2005


So I did reach. At the (re-)appointed hour of 6 past mid-day. Lucknow is in the midst of its annual angry summer season. Preparing to get doused in downpours of the South-West. There is something about Lucknow this summer. It’s not the ‘TAX FREE’ invitation screaming across the ‘Bunty Aur Babli’ poster. Not the 46º heat either. Not even the fact that its just another season of Beer, kababs and meaningless movies. Lucknow today looks more mobile than ever before. Definitely more than during the two years of my halt here. Either there’s more money around the regular hands that spend at the Ganj. Or the GDP in general has gone Uttar in this Pradesh of cows, rickshaws and cheap rifles.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

From The Deccan Outpost

We live in interesting times here in India. We just witnessed 2 brothers split their father’s legacy worth Rs. 100,000 Crores (!!!) and change (more !!!) right down the middle. A Prime Minister who is fast becoming non-Prime. A prominent hawk from the right trying to build bridges to the moderate centre by using the oft-misused ‘secular’ paint to color a late leader (of much infamy) from across the border. And the movie of the season down south sends a serial killer to annihilate corruption.
(To be continued…)


And here I am taking an elongated trip from Delhi to Lucknow through rustic North India. Shatabdis are meant to be short and quiet. What it can’t help is with a train accident at Aligarh. So the engine, thirteen coaches and the solitary brake van roll along wherever the rails, their switches and those guards let them. As long as they touch the capital of Avadh at the end of their meandering. The damages ofcourse are worth about 5 hours. At the current rate we’re to reach the famed city of the Bhulbhulaiya at 6 in the evening. Delay or no delay, the kids at the Khurja Shahar station are quite excited at the site of these German-built air-conditioned coaches stopping over at theirs. The coaches do look neat. There’s a North European touch definitely. Not that I’m an expert on the North European Rail Manufacturing industry. But I did notice that the window glass in the efficient toilet had Norwegian markings! The unscheduled stop at the station ofcourse was courtesy of the changed course and elongated itinerary of this Express. So Khurja Shahar is where I decided I’d scribble down between chapters from The Broker by the legal beagle J.G.
(To be continued...)

Friday, May 27, 2005


Lost in Transition.. (almost)
Feels good to be back in City B. The SC Bose Airport has this thing for me. Of my four visits to the Kolkata domestic terminal my record reads like - 9 hour wait for a flight, a 10 hour sleepthrough overnighter, an unsuccessful try on the IC waitlist and lastly a successful pushthrough on an IC waitlist (happened last night!). Especially daunting was the sleepthrough on a couch waiting for a Jet flight to takeoff. I could pat myself in the comforting know that my predicament was far better off than one Mr. Merhan Karimi Nasseri's. Tom Hanks' portrayal had given me good enough an idea about what a 'long' stay at a Terminal could do to you. Still the realization that I might have already lost out on a profitable book+movie+royalty deal did pinch me a bit.

Good to be Back
The air about Bangalore has this zing and energy to it. Maybe people coming back to the city after a few days out would attest to it. Or maybe people coming back and emerging out of the rarefied atmosphere of an airplane. Or People coming back after four days in muggy, summer-afflicted Kolkata would definitely do. :)

As four wise souls recently spouted
"Lose control, of body and soul.
Don't move too fast, people, just take it slow.
Don't get ahead, just jump into it."

Maybe its the pleasant sounding 28C evening air. Maybe its the smell of melted dew in the coolness of a rained out afterness. Maybe its the pollen. But the drive is back and the day at my desk was definitely enjoyable.

Thursday, May 26, 2005


Passing by this river town is an experience by itself even if it is for a couple of days. There is the hipper-than-most-metros scene at Park Street. The neon lighting and the hues of this street make you realize the city has nightlife to talk of after all. After Chennai, most metros sound hip and happening. :-) Strictly in the matter of nocturnal peoples ofcourse. Overmore, the nocturnal habits of the inhabitants here seem to have a notorious if not innocent feel.

Simply Something Else!

Love this Song..

Tere Bin Sanu Sonya
Koi Hor Naiyo Labhna ,
Jo Dekhu Ruh nu Sakun Chuke Cho jo Nakhra Mera...!!

Tere Bin.. by Rabbi Shergill

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Tip-toe through Buddha's land..

There are some characteristics about Kolkata and Kolkatans that are hard to unnotice.

Like the wrinkled, sooty buildings along the drive from Howrah (Howda, for the uninitiated). These (possibly) septuagenarian (or possibly older-than-Tagore) structures combined with the all-pervading fishy smell tend to give you an idea what this city might be missing. Some of these back streets tend to remind you of Mumbai. The resemblance ends when you realize that the only place where you might possibly have encountered the fishy muggy feeling would have been at VT during those morning hour rushes! You wouldn’t exactly be arrested if you thought all building work here stopped way back in 1947. Only till you get to the business districts ofcourse. Park Street, Camac Street…

There is the hipper-than-most-metros scene at Park street…. (To be continued)

This Left isn't Right!

Three years ago around now, it is quite possible most of us ran into commentaries on the business climate, which sang sweet praise of the progress made by the Chinese and typically drove home the point “.. and fifteen years down the line, the Chinese have learnt to separate the state from the shop and have moved far ahead of the Indian bandwagon..”. Eighteen years and counting, none of that has changed. Three years then, our professor of the course on global competition drove home the point when he brought to class a bunch of items – pocket fan, pocket razor, steam iron, camera and many more household gadgets. All of them had one thing in common – quality and the ‘made in china’ stamp. I doubt if he has changed a word of that lecture. To this day, Business dailies continue to sell copies drawing never-ending comparisons between the two countries. Businesses continue to complain of red tape in India. People continue to spit on the roads, on the staircases, inside lifts, inside trains. And, Reforms continue to be the pet subjects of our elected representatives. They – the reforms – have become exactly that–pets locked up in the labyrinth that is the give-and-take agreements called the CMP. And laughably true, they are headed to achieving exactly that. Minimum.

The difference between a pseudo–socialist nation that is ours and a nation backed by a no-nonsense ‘we-are-Marxists-but-we-mind-our-business-well’ policy needs only to be seen to be believed. The difference arises when the state decides to pursue its nation’s development and prosperity before anything else. Is it wrong if the average citizen wants better roads? Better opportunities? Is it wrong to expect more efficiency out of my telephone line provider? Everybody wants this country to improve in all sectors and hopefully make us more money. No, not at the cost of the poor, or the farmer. Politicians can be tricky road-mates on the path to national prosperity. Especially the ones who get voted on the poverty alleviation plank. But I’m curious. My friends in America see bags of rice from Mexico and Indonesia, but not India. Why so, while we hear the surplus story on and off? How come the CMP does not talk of a Commission to fix corruption in the PDS? That’s just one of the many sticky points. But lets not dig into that.

Next time around before the Leftists undertake a trip to the Prime Minister’s house to pin him to the CMP, Minister Renuka Chowdhary should pack them off on a trip to the land of their much-celebrated comrades. As they arrive at the Pearl of the Orient, they will notice the never-ending line of planes docked in the gleaming new International Airport. As they drive down from Pudong at 100 kmph, they will notice the magnetic levitation train whizzing past them without a whimper. As they drive into the city, they would notice the efficient Elevated Ring Road system. If they tried to book some office space for their propaganda office, the realization of the hot demand for office space would sink in. Retail, even more. All the high-rises and the omnipresent huge construction sites notwithstanding. They would realize the commercial engine at work, with all pistons firing. If they were looking for pointers from the local comrades on their ‘rozgar’ pitch, they might have to return empty-handed.

Shanghai could pass off as an everyday Mumbai, with every street bustling with activity. People running to and out of the metro subs. Business brisk as ever right from the upmarket Huaihai establishments down to the sweet lady selling embroidered silk cushion covers inside Yuyuan Garden. People in the office aggressive as ever, attacking every project down to detail. Remind you of Mumbai alright. Only that, to this positive enthusiasm add the solid infrastructure of public transport, efficient road system, the FDI investments turning up in the form of quality jobs in every sector and you have a heady mini-economy chugging away. In China, the positive spirits of a renovated people will inspire you into realizing that its time we too regained our glory of the Pre-East India Company era.

The Indian government would do well by deciding if we want at all to commit to the huge investments still to be made, supposing the foreign capital taps continue to be set at a trickle. Investment from inside was exactly the route followed by the Chinese – be it setting up the ‘made-for-business’ infrastructure of the cities like Shenzhen and Shanghai or sustaining loss-making state-owned enterprises employing the bulk of the labour force. But the same has resulted in China’s banks carrying prohibitive amounts of NPA’s – an area where India has a huge foot ahead; we have a mature financial services industry running on sturdy fundamentals. We all love hearing good things about our future. The Goldman Sachs-sponsored BRICS report, which came out last year, the recent ratings reports coming out of S&P and ADB foresee exactly that. But they also make assumptions on the continuing process of reforms, infrastructural improvements and also the huge latent internal demand to fire the economy further.

All this while the word ‘foreigner’ is making a comeback as a swear word. So is it a shocker that the city of Shanghai attracts more FDI than the whole of India with its motley collection of 30 states, half a dozen metros including two ‘IT capitals’, a ‘busy’ stock exchange and last but definitely not the least, a headcount of a billion people and change.

Messrs Yechury, Raja & Co, I too want my spot in the sunshine.